• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Discussing Homicide - muder - actus reus.

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

HOMICIDE 1. MURDER - ACTUS REUS The definition of murder is derived from the writing of the jurist Sir Edward Coke: 'Murder is when a [person]...unlawfully killeth...any reasonable creature in rerum natura under the Queen's peace, with malice aforethought...'. A bit of a mouthful, you may think! Anyway, let's look at actus reus of the wording - essentially, the unlawful killing of a human being - in a little detail. The word 'unlawfully' can be taken to exclude killings for which the accused has a complete and valid justification, such as killing in self-defence or in wartime. 'Killeth' or 'kills' means 'causes the death of', and I shall deal with causation soon. For the moment, take on board that murder is also a result crime and in accordance with the rule laid down by the House of Lords in R v MILLER [1983] 1 All ER 978 - HL (the cigarette that caused the fire) there is a duty to act in the face of a danger one has created oneself. 'Any reasonable creature in rerum natura' can be safely shortened to 'any human being'. This therefore excludes any 'baby' in a womb, so if death is caused before the child has an existence independent of its mother, there can be no murder. This is now settled law following the House of Lords' decision in ATTORNEY-GENERAL's REFERENCE (No. 3 of 1994) [1998] AC 245 HL. This leaves us with the question of what happens if a baby is born and later dies because of an attack on its mother by the defendant whilst in the womb. ...read more.

Middle

Their actions did not break the chain because they were reasonable acts of self preservation or defence and/or because they were analogous to involuntary acts done in performance of a legal duty; and that, since shooting back at the defendant was a natural consequence of his having shot first, he remained responsible. I must confess that I find it difficult to see why the police response was a natural one foreseeable as likely to happen in the ordinary course of events or why it was a reasonable act of self preservation: the police could have withdrawn, surely? Clearly, the decision not to prosecute the police was a policy decision. The second exception to the rule is that if the defendant's conduct is not the operative cause of death but an abnormality in the victim is, then the defendant has committed the actus reus. So, if I chase you down the street and, due to a heart condition, you have a heart attack and die, then I have killed you. You see, the courts have always held that a defendant must take a victim subject to his physical and mental condition. In tort, this is known as the 'egg shell skull' principle. In short, a defendant must always take a victim as he finds him. A case that you may find astonishing here, is R v BLAUE (1975) 1 WLR 1411 - CA. The defendant had stabbed the victim 13 times, and she was rushed to hospital where doctors diagnosed a blood transfusion as being the only way to save her. The victim, a Jehovah's Witness, refused and consequently died. ...read more.

Conclusion

Thinking the victim was dead, the defendants then rolled him over a cliff to fake an accident. The victim was alive when rolled over the cliff and died later from exposure. The defendants were found guilty of murder. So, what do we make of this case? Well, it seems that if death is caused during a series of acts as part of a pre-conceived plan, then the earlier mens rea is sufficient for a conviction. Inevitably, then, what if there is no earlier pre-conceived plan? It appears that the approach will be the same where the conduct which causes death was either undertaken in order to conceal the earlier conduct which was accompanied by mens rea; or where it is part of the same transaction, like FAGAN. You can see this in another 'disposal' case, R v LE BRUN (1991) 4 AER 673 - CA, where the defendant was found guilty when his conduct caused the death of his wife despite the fact that he lacked mens rea at the time that he killed her. He was guilty because, when he had hit her earlier, he had had mens rea and the act that caused her death was done in order to conceal his assault on her. OK, folks, well that is murder. However, if you're in a mood for some in depth thought about murder in the context of doctors going around wards injecting terminally ill patients with overdoses of pain relieving drugs in order to put them out of their misery (thereby creating extra bed space!), then read the article 'Summing up intention' NLJ August by Simon Cooper - it makes grim and thought provoking reading. In the next lecture we'll take a peek at manslaughter. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Law of Tort section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Law of Tort essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Taking selected areas of the civil and or criminal law, evaluate whether sportsmen and ...

    4 star(s)

    Similarly in the case of Watkinson v British Railways Board was awarded �5670.98 due to an injury he received as a Locomotive driver. Finally a trainee floor tiler was awarded �5049.38 from an injury he received at work to his feet and toes.

  2. The terms Actus Reus and Mens Rea

    This somewhat unusual case in which a man drove onto a police constables foot by accident and the refused to move off once he realised the accident illustrates the difficulties in establishing the temporal coincidence of actus reus and mens rea.

  1. What is the meaning of intention in English criminal law? Is it always possible ...

    However, this does not operate when the divergence between actus reus and mens rea is relevant to the definition of the offence: the two must refer to the same crime (Pembliton [1874]). cIyDI from cIyDI coursewrok cIyDI work cIyDI info cIyDI As Glanville Williams once pointed out, "the act constituting

  2. UNIT3 ASSIGNMENT4 LAW OF TORT

    This required all the surrounding circumstances to be considered, for example the seriousness of the danger, the type of trespasser likely to enter, and in some cases the resources of the occupier. To establish whether Ken can be exempt from liability to compensate Malcolm, these factors will contribute to the

  1. Using actual situations, describe the elements of actus reus and mens rea in criminal ...

    The defendant was charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm as the victim had been reduced to a mental state which, in itself, amounted to actual bodily harm (the extent of his injuries were disputed). The actus reus in assault occasioning actual bodily harm has two elements: assault (causing the other person to fear immediate unlawful force)

  2. Briefly Explain The Meaning Of These Terms: Actus Reus And Mens Rea

    Mens Rea does not need a motive as in the case of Maloney where a man shot his father-in-law; the House of Lords stated that foresight of the consequences in not intention but only evidence of intention. "Reasonable foresight" of consequences is also enough to prove intention.

  1. negligence in tort

    man, guided upon those considerations which ordinarily regulate the conduct of human affairs, would do, or doing something which a prudent and reasonable man would not do.' The significance of Shamilla's pre-existing illness that she suffers from a bone disorder, which causes her injuries to be much greater than they would have been otherw.

  2. In this report, the differences between contractual liability and tortuous liability are explained. In ...

    Employees must work safely in accordance with their training and instructions given to them. Employees must also notify the employer or the person responsible for health and safety of any serious or immediate danger to health and safety or any shortcoming in health and safety arrangements.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work